The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Renee Montagne, Nina Martin, Alex Tizon, Mary Mann, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, and Andy Newman.

A new room in the maternity ward of Maine Medical Center. (Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Renee Montagne, Nina Martin, Alex Tizon, Mary Mann, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, and Andy Newman.

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1. The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth

Renee Montagne, Nina Martin | ProPublica | May 12, 2017 | 37 minutes (9,300 words)

This deep dive by ProPublica and NPR into maternal death in the United States is equal parts devastating and essential. But for a country that prides itself in the lowering of infant mortality, concerns about the health of the mother in the days and weeks after birth has declined to the point that even preventable illnesses are going under-treated, or untreated.

2. My Family’s Slave

Alex Tizon | The Atlantic | June 1, 2017 | 34 minutes (8,703 words)

We understand that this story is controversial and has generated many important conversations.

Alex Tizon tells the story of his family’s slave, Lola. A utusan (“person who takes commands”), Lola was given as a gift from his grandfather to his mother in 1943, when Lola was 18 years old. Lola worked — unpaid — for Alex and his family for 56 years. In a turbulent childhood where his parents were out of the house for days at a time, Lola was a constant source of love and devotion for Alex and his three siblings. In this moving piece, Alex attempts to understand his parents’ point of view, their motivations, and reconcile himself with Lola’s life of servitude.

3. Thomas Cook and the Stack Pirates

Mary Mann | Electric Literature | May 16, 2017 | 22 minutes (5,506 words)

Boredom and an enterprising Brit gave birth to the modern tourism industry, and we’re still trying to make sense of it all.

4. Her Eyes Were Watching The Stars: How Missy Elliot Became an Icon

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah | Elle | May 15, 2017 | 22 minutes (5,678 words)

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah profiles multi-platinum, Grammy-award winning recording artist and producer Missy Elliot, placing the innovative performer squarely at the center of a tradition of creators who have changed how we listen to music.

5. The Doctor Will See Your Iguana Now

Andy Newman | The New York Times | May 12, 2017 | 9 minutes (2,465 words)

Andy Newman covers a day in the life of Dr. Anthony Pilny, veterinarian at the Center for Avian and Exotic Medicine in Manhattan, New York. Dr. Pilny’s days routinely involve bowel-obstructed bunnies, lame ducks, and feisty, festering iguanas, just to name a few of his pint-sized patients.